Vro room Vey­ron

It’s su­per sleek, costs $2.7 mil­lion and is the world’s fastest pro­duc­tion car. It will take your breath away, writes PAUL GOVER Pic­tures: DAVID CA

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Special Report -

NONE of the num­bers gives you the re­motest idea of what it is like to drive a Bu­gatti Vey­ron. The Vey­ron costs $2.7 mil­lion. It has a top of 408km/h and will hit 100km/h in 2.5 sec­onds, thanks to a quad-turbo W16 en­gine with 736kW.

Those num­bers are enough to take your breath away, or leave you gig­gling about the out­ra­geous stu­pid­ity of a car that is so ex­treme in ev­ery way yet is still de­signed pri­mar­ily to get two peo­ple from here to there.

But put your foot flat to the floor in the Vey­ron, feel the world tilt on its axis and your arms stretch in their sock­ets as you hang on to the wheel, and you be­gin to un­der­stand what the Bu­gatti is all about.

It was de­signed from day one to be the fastest car. And the best.

No ex­pense has been spared, noth­ing left un­done, from the alu­minium switches to the 10 ra­di­a­tors to cool the 8.0-litre en­gine and the car’s sev­en­speed DSG gear­box and all-wheeldrive sys­tem.

And there are un­der­body aero­dy­nam­ics, a com­puter-con­trolled sus­pen­sion sys­tem, multi-mode trans­mis­sion, and on and on.

Books have been writ­ten about the Vey­ron be­cause there is so much to the car, but it all be­comes back­ground static when the Bu­gatti is sit­ting in the pit­lane at the Sandown Park rac­ing cir­cuit and you are one of two Aus­tralians who have been ac­cepted to drive. That is when your fo­cus nar­rows to the sin­gle pin­point called Vey­ron.

There are celebri­ties here, train­ing in their cute lit­tle Fiat 500s for their race at the Aus­tralian Grand Prix, but they fade to black in the colour­ful glare of the Vey­ron.

Peo­ple gawk, point and gasp, then the Bu­gatti rolls down the pit­lane and on to the track, with for­mer F1 driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel at the wheel for a sys­tems’ check.

When he re­turns, ham­mer­ing out of the last cor­ner with the Vey­ron at full boost, there is a mo­ment of si­lence be­fore the chat­ter­ing starts again.

‘‘When you’re stand­ing on the fence and it goes past it’s like a sonic boom,’’ cham­pion cy­clist Phil An­der­son says.

Then three celebrity vic­tims are strapped into the pas­sen­ger seat for a cou­ple of hot laps. Each one takes some time to emerge, calm­ing them­selves af­ter the pum­mel­ing from a car eas­ily top­ping 260km/h down the Sandown straights.

Ten­nis player Mark Philip­pous­sis, who has owned a few fast cars, says: ‘‘It’s amaz­ing to think what man can make. How it doesn’t fly off the road, I don’t know. That’s just ridicu­lous.’’

Then it’s my turn be­hind the wheel.

This car is so fast and so ex­pen­sive it de­mands re­spect. Even so, it is idling smoothly and the con­trols are like ev­ery other car. It all looks and feels so . . . nor­mal.

But the Bu­gatti is not re­motely nor­mal, which Raphanel em­pha­sises as he drops into the pas­sen­ger seat.

‘‘You must get to know this car. You can­not rush. So just take it easy,’’ he says.

And so I slide the gear lever into

full auto and tickle the throt­tle. There is no hes­i­ta­tion, no fuss and no drama as we roll for­ward at a gen­tle 40km/h. This is as easy as han­dling a Camry. We are soon up to 110km/h and the trans­mis­sion has slurred to sev­enth gear with­out giv­ing a sin­gle in­di­ca­tion of a gear change. No jerk, no change in throt­tle or revs, just a seam­less slide to cruis­ing speed.

Now there is time to look at and feel the car— to see the reg­u­la­tion ana­logue in­stru­ments, feel the meaty leather­wrapped wheel, re­lax a lit­tle into the race-shape leather bucks, ap­pre­ci­ate air­con­di­tion­ing cop­ing eas­ily with a 34C Melbourne day.

‘‘Now, put your foot down,’’ Raphanel says.

I do. And the Vey­ron erupts. Not in a raw, coarse way, but with the em­phatic ef­fi­ciency of a jet fighter. The en­gine roars, the tur­bos pump, the gear­box kicks back to sec­ond and we are trans­ported into an­other world. The surge of ac­cel­er­a­tion is stronger than any­thing I have felt short of the Re­nault F1 car I drove last year, and even bet­ter than a V8 Su­per­car.

It’s only a cou­ple of sec­onds be­fore the speedome­ter is twist­ing past 140mph (225km/h).

‘‘Please, ease off now. This is not a rac­ing car and the road is very bumpy. It is too rough to re­ally push the brakes,’’ Raphanel says.

So we glide into the brak­ing space at the top of the back straight, de­feat a cou­ple of curves with a few wrist twists, then do the zap-bang ac­cel­er­a­tion thing again.

This time the speedo goes be­yond 160mph (257km/h) with ease, but I still can­not slow the ac­tion in my head enough to un­der­stand what is re­ally hap­pen­ing.

So we go for a stand­ing start. Noth­ing dra­matic, apart from se­lect- ing the sport set­ting for the DSG gear­box. I floor the throt­tle . . . and it feels as if the front wheels are lift­ing off the ground.

This is un­be­liev­able stuff for a su­per-lux­ury coupe that weighs more than 1800kg.

There is a brief pause when a bump un­loads one wheel and the trac­tion con­trol in­ter­venes, but oth­er­wise it’s a cat­a­pult take­off.

ONE sec­ond you are sit­ting here, the next you are gone. My five laps are over far too soon. I can­not say much about the han­dling, be­cause the track was too rough and sus­pen­sion too cushy to re­ally push, but the per­for­mance is stag­ger­ing.

What else can I re­mem­ber? The beau­ti­fully re­spon­sive steer­ing, the seam­less ac­tion of the gear­box, the way the en­gine lights up even on light throt­tle and the in­cred­i­ble torque and power of a mo­tor de­signed and de­vel­oped to push the Vey­ron be­yond 200mph (320km/h).

Oh, and seats with ba­sic man­ual con­trol. Just a pull-and-slide lever with­out a sin­gle elec­tric mo­tor.

The Vey­ron is so fast it makes a V8 Su­per­car seem tame.

There is a kink on the back straight at Sandown that is hardly there in a rac­ing Com­modore, but it be­comes a real cor­ner in the Vey­ron.

Yet the car also has the fi­nal fin­ish­ing you find in a Rolls-Royce Phan­tom, as you would ex­pect when the price is $2.7 mil­lion.

It is hard to put the Vey­ron ex­pe­ri­ence into words, but one spec­ta­tor at Sandown does it well enough as I try to talk him through the drive.

‘‘It’s all that, and a bag of chips, then?’’ he asks. Ex­actly.

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